Tag: Gender Identity

Whole Lot of Heart

I have been away from my blog lately.  Away from my podcast.  Away from this HAPPY SPACE.  And today I realized it was time to reconnect.  Time to remind myself about why I created Speaking Of Happy.  I wanted to put the HAPPY back into being gay and celebrate the LGBTQIA Community.  And although I have been EXTREMELY HAPPY lately I have been selfish and keeping much of that happiness to myself.  It has been on my mind however so today I return with an important blog which I hope makes a difference for someone, somewhere who may be suffering and feeling alone.  I am here.  I see you.  Listen to this song and know, I SEE YOU.  The song starts at 3:27 (cue it up now) but Idina shares a little about her new album and how personal it is to her.  And her music is very personal to me.  Because, partially through her, something really amazing happened to me!  This post isn’t about that, and perhaps one day I will share what that is but today this is about something else.  So, listen to this song and then come back to read the rest of the blog.  Or read and listen but know there is another song coming up that I hope will make an impact on you too so read on.

OK so now for the real reason for this post.

The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster for me.  On Sunday I found out, although it comes as no surprise, some of my family members who I love and respect dearly, do not feel the same about me.  And apparently I have been a hot topic for gossip.  Interesting thing is none of the offenders have come to me directly with their questions or concerns.  Instead they talk to other family members and share their judgements and evaluations about my life and how I live it.  And they even want to exclude me from participating in family gatherings.  But one person had the courage to come to me directly and tell me the truth.  She even said she wasn’t ok with excluding me or talking badly about me.  I am grateful for her caring and support.  And although it was hard for her to come to me and tell me the truth she did and I am grateful.

And the most interesting thing of all is how I choose to live my life!  I choose to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the oppressed.  In my free time I am out educating people and fighting for the rights of people who have had their voice diminished.  Kids who are kicked out of their homes because they are LGBTQIA.  Youth who are bullied and picked on in school just because of who they are.  Bullied and demeaned by their classmates daily.  I hear horror stories all the time.  I have read messages being sent to some of the trans youth I know that should make ALL PEOPLE ANGRY.  And when the parents of those youth take proof to the schools their kids go to, the schools who talk to the oppressors take their word over the word and the proof of the oppressed.  And I can relate to the minimizing of feelings by others when I have pointed out how their actions are hurtful.  When they make statements like, I didn’t mean what I said in a bad way or even worse they tell me I am being too sensitive.

I put myself out there daily in all the little things I do to educate people about what it is to be transgender.  Teaching about microagressions and things that are inappropriate for people to say to me and I do it with kindness and compassion because I ALWAYS have the youth in the back of my mind.  Because I want them to feel safe and loved and cared for.  And by educating you I am hopefully creating a wave that you carry into your lives and you pass on what you have learned from me because you love me and respect me and see me for who I am.  And that ripple effect will change hearts and minds of those you interact with and by doing so we will save a child from heartache together.

On Monday I did a presentation to a room of more than 40 people.  I shared my story and brought along two high school students who generously shared what it is like for them in their schools daily.  The sharing was very raw and real.  We facilitated an exercise the group participated in on Microagressions – individual acts of subtle prejudice or hostility that can be unintentional or conscious, generally committed by one individual toward another individual.  Microassaults – small behaviors that are intentional and purposefully hurtful. (e.g., using the wrong name or pronouns, name calling, or making derogatory statements)  Microinsults – rude statements that are usually unintentional or unconscious that indicate ignorance or bias. (e.g., asking inappropriate questions, redirecting someone to another bathroom), Microinvalidations – statements or actions that are usually unintentional or unconscious that ignore, minimize, or nullify a person’s identity (e.g., having only two options for sex/gender on forms, teling gender non-conforming people that they should not be upset if people are confused by their gender).

I know you may be feeling guilty of doing some of these things, and until now DID NOT even realize it.  Some of the participants were appalled at what they were hearing.  They couldn’t believe it.  They experienced only 8 minutes of this, LGBTQIA youth endure minutes, that build into hours, weeks, months, and years of verbal assaults.  Many of them are getting it from their own family members.  Many of them are choosing to end their lives or being murdered in the streets.

Some of the participants shared some powerful emotions and pain in regard to their own experiences because yes LGBTQIA people are everywhere. One woman shared how the exercise had her present to her own cisgender privilege and how she has never been on the receiving end of such hateful, hurtful statements and she could clearly see how hard it might be for someone who does hear them every day.  I was tagged in a lovely thank you from the organization that invited us to speak and I am grateful the exercise made a difference for them.  And I am confident we had a very powerful impact on them.

Now listen to this song because it is where I come from on a daily basis!  I wear my heart on my sleeve sometimes.  I openly share my emotions because I want you to know you are welcome to share yours with me.  That I will hold your heart carefully in my hands and help you to feel better about your life.

There is a Whole Lot of Heart in me because I am loved.  Because I have a huge supportive loving community of people who also believe in the world I believe in.  One that sees people for who they are.  One who lifts people up and respects them for who they are.

I am living my life being 100% authentic to myself.  Living for me so I can be HAPPY.  So that when I look at myself in the mirror I LOVE what I see reflected back at me.  For 50 years I lived a life so that everyone else could be comfortable, all the while I was dying inside.  

Today, I am living.  Today I am happy and fulfilled and LOVED.  And the biggest love is the love I feel for me.  

I am loved.  By many of my dear friends who know me and see me and honor the man I am.  They support me and have walked this journey with me and have done the work to learn more and educate themselves about what it is to be transgender.  Some of them are part of the community and they too have had to challenge their own strongly held beliefs in regard to the gender binary we have all been tricked into believing was real. But they are doing the work.

I am loved by my community and all of the amazing transgender people I know.  They show me daily what it is to be COURAGEOUS in the face of little or no agreement.  And they continue to move forward with their heads held high. They are GORGEOUS, CREATIVE, COMPASSIONATE humans and I celebrate them!

I am loved and seen by my sister Marisue and her family.  I know she helps to educate people in her life and is a powerful advocate for me too.  We have talked recently and we both believe we are so much closer today because of the freedom I feel to be me today. 

I am loved and seen fully by my mother.  A woman living in a memory care unit who can’t tell me what she had for lunch but she calls me her son every time I visit her and she has no judgement of me.  She says I am handsome and reminds me of stories from my childhood that affirm who I am.

I am loved by my 80 year old Aunt Betty with whom I share a birthday.  She tells me all the time how much I look like my dad and that I am ok just as I am. And her son, my cousin Ted, who called me to thank me for being strong and for living my life in a way that is inspirational to those around me.  

And I LOVE the transgender youth I have had the honor and privilege to meet.  Who have so generously shared their stories and lives with me.  And I will continue to be the change I wish to see in the world for them.  So that perhaps one day, no family will ever reject a child because of who they are. So that families will not have to suffer the loss of a child who committed suicide because of all the hate-filled rhetoric in our world.

So, gossip about me if you will.  Exclude me from family gatherings.  I will NEVER stop being WHO I AM.  And truth be told I will never stop loving you, but I may choose to remove myself from your life only to preserve my HAPPINESS.

#shebelongs

Back in March we did an interview with Eris Koleszar for Speaking Of Happy and little did we know how big she would become in less than a month!  Eris is an outspoken advocate for the trangender community and recently took a powerful stand against anti-trans descrimination online via her selfie campaign!  She has not only thrust herself into the public eye but she has also taken on activating allies in her quest to create safe bathroom spaces for Transgender people in Omaha!  After an online dispute started by a post from a local bar owner Eris has been personally advocating on behalf of the trans comEris1munity online and on television!  We knew from the moment we met her last year that we had to have her on Speaking Of Happy and thank goodness we acted fast before her dance card filled up!

Eris is a amazing human being who is articulate and funny and just all around wonderful to spend time with.  She is a force to be reconned with online as she takes on some of the most vile anti-trans people in Omaha but also is activitating local allies with her selfie campaign!  She has been going to local venues and asking allies to take selfies with her and post them to their social media with the hashtags #shebelongs #shejustwantstopee #transwomenarewomen and educating people about the hateful anti-trans legislation showing up across the nation.  She is defeating stereotypes one selfie at a time and doing it with great class!

 

This is our interview which was conducted last March and originally aired on RadiOmaha.

If you do not see the player then click HERE and listen on PodOmatic.

TDoV Omaha

 

TdovTDoV Omaha is Transgender Day of Visibility and it happens across the nation on March 31st. On the show today I sat down with Miles Cristiano Jordan who is one of the organizers. He shares with us what the event is all about, why it is important, and how you can get involved! I enjoyed chatting with Miles and I hope you enjoy the interview. Also, I will be at TDoV this year so come see me and learn how you can become an active ally!

If you can not see the player click HERE to listen to the podcast on PodOMatic.

Cock

COCK

Today on the show we sat down with Joshua Mullady, Director of COCK which is in it’s final weekend of performances!  If you are looking for a thought provoking, prevocative, word fight and battle for love then this play is for you!  Written by Mike Bartlett, COCK will challenge your views of love, sexual identity, to cheat or not to cheat, and you the notion if something is worth loving it is worth fighting for!

If you do not see the player above click HERE and listen to the episode on podomatic.
 

I personally saw the show and felt the acting was brilliant!  The central character, who by the way is the only character with a name, is John and he is in love with M but they fight a lot and have a number of differences which don’t always leave John feeling like an equal.  On a break John meets W and as they dance with their dialogue he begins to find himself falling for W!  But, he can’t stop thinking about M.  As the story unfolds it becomes a duel to the end.  No death occurs, but perhaps the metaphorical death of outdated notions of sexual identity!  So, challenge yourself!  Listen to the interview as you run over and buy tickets for the show!

Or as you listen go check out SNAP! Productions website for more information about the diverse theater productions they bring to Omaha.  And then after you are done listening to this show go and listen to our interview with Michal Simpson, Artistic Director of SNAP! by clicking here.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the show!

Jocelyn

Jocelyn I first saw Jocelyn when a friend posted a video shot on her iPhone of Jocelyn singing at an open mic. I was blown away at her talent in a less than perfect cell phone video! She jumped off the screen and I knew I had to meet her. Well as fate would have it I messaged her a few times and asked if she would be willing to play at a fundraiser I was hosting and she AGREED! She blew the small crowd away and we all left that night feeling as though we witnessed something very special. So, it was a given I asked Jocelyn to come on the show and share her talent with Speaking Of Happy fans! So this is our wonderful conversation and also included as a bonus is her most recent single she released back in January and an acoustic version of another song she wrote! We hope you enjoy the show!

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If you do not see the player click HERE and listen on podomatic.

Please visit Jocelyn’s website by clicking HERE after the interview!

Marilynn Barner Anselmi

 

Marilynn with the girls

On today’s episode of Speaking Of Happy we chat with Marilynn Barner Anselmi, a playwrite, who’s play Mama’s Girls, was just beautifully produced by SNAP! Productions here in Omaha.  Marilynn came to see the play on the last day of the run and we sat down to chat with her about what the inspiration for the play was along with how she became a playwrite.  Anselmi is a gifted writer and shares some very personal stories about her life.  The episode originally aired on RadiOmaha earlier this year.  We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!

 

 

Anselmi and the cast of Mama’s Girls!2015-12-06 16.13.48

 

 

 

 

2015-12-06 16.53.26 2015-12-06 16.53.11Anselmi gets interviewed by Chloe the young actress who played Sammy in Mama’s Girls

 

 

 

 

 

If you do not see the player click HERE and listen to the podcast on podomatic.

Get Foo’d

On the show today I sat down with local photographer Joshua Foo!  Prior to this interview I had never met Joshua in person.  I saw some of the his photos on Facebook and instantly fell in love with his work

JoshwithFlyingFurniture

so I decided to send him a friend request.  Considering we had so many friends in common I hoped he would accept my request and he did!  I also liked his photography page on facebook so I could stay up to date with his work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He has a crazy awesome imagination and has created some amazing images that are whimsical and fun!

Haizel

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But what really had me take notice was when he started posting photos of people with a front and a side view of each person.  The people are not smiling and appeared to be randomly plucked off the street. I watched as he posted them one after another and I started to notice something. Each of them were amazing and alluring. I wanted to learn more about the people he was posting as well as about the man who was capturing these incredible images!

A Photo Series by Joshua FooInstagram: @joshfoolovesyouFacebook: Joshua Foo Photography

Posted by Joshua Foo on Saturday, September 26, 2015

So we sat down on the back patio at Caffeine Dreams, which is where he discovered the backdrop that would become a key element in his series! I was even honored to have my photo taken that day!

AsYouWere_Eli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here it is the full interview with Joshua Foo, my new and amazing friend! How many times does a person get to have their very first conversation with a person be recorded for all to hear and to live on forever right here on Speaking Of Happy! Thank you Joshua Foo!

We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did, and if you don’t that’s ok, we at least hope you learn something new!

If you can’t see the player above click HERE and listen to the show on PodOMatic.

Joshua is not only an amazing photographer but a human being extraordinaire and we talked about his photo series As You Were along with what inspires him and why he chose to become a photograper.  Josh is a compassionate and amazing human being and I am so very grateful to now be able to consider him my friend.

365

This is the last day of the year. The last time in 2015 that I can say, I accomplished X or I did Y in 2015. What does that mean really? Well for me this year brought with it a great deal of firsts and a whole lot of transition. Transition in how I view myself along with who I choose to share with the world! Today I choose to share the real me authentically, but it took many years to get to this point. Many ups and downs. Much heartache and pain as well as triumphs. When I look back on the last 50 some odd years of my life I can honestly say I have accomplished more than I ever believed imaginable.

The greatest accomplishment is surrounding myself with people who are willing to love me unconditionally for me. To accept the me that I am sharing with them and to help me learn to love myself unconditionally too. Believe me, this has not come easy. I have had friends say some of the meanest things to me, needless to say, they are no longer my friends. And I have had complete strangers want to tear me down for sharing myself authentically with the world. But I am here to say that did not and will NEVER stop me from sharing me. From telling my story or from sharing the stories of other local LGBTQIA heroes I know.

Today marks a day I can sit back and reflect on with great pride. In the past year, I have accomplished more than I could have ever imagined to include this website. Creating a space where I get to share so many wonderful things about our world, things that make me happy but I am finding they make other people happy too! This website would not have been possible without the love and support of so many wonderful people to include the incredible love of my life Kira! The woman who has stood quietly by my side and supported my journey without hesitation. She has not only helped teach me to love and accept me for me, but to also shine a bright light into the darkest parts of myself in order to find true peace and appreciation for who I am and what I have to offer this world.

She was a stand that I stop saying mean things to myself. And she would call me on it at every turn. Eventually I began to see that how I treated myself and the things I said when I thought no one else could hear were hurtful. You see no one could ever hurt me more than I had been hurting myself. As I slowly began to peel away the rough exterior layers of the person I had become I started to realize and acknowledge the truly wonderful things about myself. I could no longer allow the things I disliked about me to stop me from telling my story or from sharing my journey! And as those things began to fall away I started to realize the me, that is truly me. And acknowledging it out loud and proud to the people in my life has made all the difference in the world for me. Her love is the fuel for my fire and knowing she is by my side and loves and accepts me for exactly who I am helps give me the courage to continue on this journey.

The other person I need to thank as I reflect on this year is my dear friend Alyssa. Once I began to share my transition with the world and introduced myself as Eli, she reached out to me and asked how she could help me realize my dreams. She asked me what I wanted to accomplish in sharing my transition with people and I told her. And then she did the most amazing thing. She said, I would like to coach you! No one has ever offered me such a gift and together we put a plan in place that helped me over the roadblocks in my way in creating Speaking Of Happy the website, the blog, and the radio show! With her guidance I put a plan in place that inspired me to accomplish tasks one at a time and before I knew it the website was created and I was publishing content I am proud of consistently and having a GREAT time doing it!

In three months I fully launched the website, produced, recorded, and edited 11 episodes of the radio show, produced shot and edited 3 videos (one that shared some personal stories of my life which has yet to be published to the page), wrote 3 blogs as well as had one guest blogger, and produced a One of A KindOneOfAKindShowPosterV3 comedy show and fundraiser that premiered my video 1976, my stand up comedyFirstSheet, plus I had more than 50 pieces of my photo art on display and for sale!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My good friends Brody Ray

and Jocelyn

donated their time and talents and sang their hearts out at the show too so please go and support them and their music!  And certainly last but not least I took some of the biggest steps on my journey to having my outsides express the man that I believe I have always been. I began my hormone treatments which has opened me up to a world that has been truly amazing and at times a little scary as I navigate these waters. On December 21, 2015 and with the amazing support of Kira, I ventured on the next step in my journey and had top surgery. As I type this I have an amazing freedom today. I look in the mirror and I see the me that had been there all along. A friend asked me, “what is it like, do you miss them?” I said, “My breasts?” He nods yes. I respond, “I don’t miss them at all, you see this is what I have always felt was me. I feel free and alive in a way that I have never experienced in the Fifty years of my life and I am awake and ready for the next 50!”

Also, if accomplishing the above wasn’t enough, with the love and support of many wonderful friends, I am also writing a book. I have finally found my voice and believe me, I will continue to shout with pride from the roof tops today and every day! I may not be the most prolific writer, comedian, blogger, or videographer in the world but I tell you this much, I am on the court of life, playing with everything I have to give and when I go to bed at night I sleep more soundly than I have all my life and awake and greet every new day with inspiration and determination to continue to do what I can to make a difference in our world!

I am truly blown away at what I have accomplished and fully believe 2016 will be one of my greatest years yet! My dear friends. If you take anything from what I have written here please know that allowing yourself and those around you be who they are and share their gifts with you, we all get to be GREAT together. So go, sing, dance, write, produce, support, and applaud yourself/others and all our successes! Let’s all have an amazing 2016!

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I will be making my photo art available very soon so stay tuned!

RCGA – River City Gender Alliance

RCGAButterfly_83462254_scaled_174x174Today on the radio show we sat down with Kate Parrish. She is the president of the River City Gender Alliance, also known as RCGA. Since 1986 RCGA has been a support organization that provides peer support, friendship and understanding for crossdressers, transgenderists and transsexuals.

The mission of the RCGA is to provide support for all persons who experience any form of gender identity issues. We welcome all persons with gender identity issues and also their spouses, partners and family members.

To fulfill the mission of the RCGA the objectives will be:
Monthly support meetings
Provide educational assistance and resource referrals.
Develop self-confidence/self-esteem in all members.
Network with other support groups.
Provide outreach activities that positively reflect our lifestyle.
Provide outreach to helping professionals who are interested in our lifestyle.
Hold social gatherings.

Recently RCGA provided Talk Back Panels for the play “Mama’s Girls” produced/directed by SNAP! Productions. The panels ranged from youth members of the trans community sharing their experience to longtime members of RCGA sharing their knowledge and personal stories about being Transgender in the Midwest. Powerful conversations where conducted and we are sure many people left the theater with a greater understanding and compassion for the Transgender community. GREAT work by Kate Parrish and RCGA in provided this support.

On our show Kate shares her experience in discovering her own gender identity and becoming the woman she is today. We hope you enjoy the episode! Do you want to be on the show? Do you have a local organization that supports the LGBTQIA Community or a personal story that you feel is important for others to hear? Please send us an email elirigatuso@catchcreative.com to schedule a time to talk!

If you can’t see the player click HERE and listen to the podcast on PodOMatic.

Dr. Amanda Duffy Randall

On the show today I sat down with Dr. Amanda Duffy Randall. Omaha Therapist, Associate Professor, and the Director of the Grace Abbott School of Social Work at UNO. She shares some insights into her personal journey into becoming a therapist and how she started working with the LGBTQ Community. Dr. Randall is an amazing compassionate no nonsense human being who has a refreshing matter of fact way of approaching things. My favorite quote from our conversation is:

“Reaction is often times not long term adjustment, especially for a trans person, this has been something they have struggled with for a very long time. And when they tell their families they have about 30 seconds of reaction time. And often those reactions aren’t elegant, and aren’t pretty. But long term adjustments a very different process for families.” Dr. Randall

I LOVED our chat and I hope you will enjoy it too! I also hope you might learn something useful you can pass on to others. Please feel free to share this post with anyone you feel might benefit from it.

If you do not see the player click HERE to listen to the show on our Pod-O-Matic channel. The link will open a new window so you can still enjoy looking at other posts on our site! Also be sure to listen to previous episodes of the show!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out my video on transition and how it doesn’t just affect the person who is transitioning but everyone he or she knows.

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